A recently read a column from February of 2017 titled “The Disease of More” by Mark Manson, describes a cultural phenomenon of continually enhancing one’s life. Originally the “Disease of More” began as a malady described by basketball great Pat Riley, the leader of six NBA championship teams. To describe what happened to the teams and why they could not carry their success forward, Manson’s article reads: “The players, like most people, want more. At first, that “more” was winning the championship. But once players have that championship, it’s no longer enough. The “more” becomes other things — more money, more TV commercials, more endorsements and accolades, more playing time, more plays called for them, more media attention, etc.”
I cannot find the quote I read as a young man, but I seem to recall a journalist asking one of the super-wealthy robber barons what they wanted, and they replied, just one word, “more.” I can’t find the “more” answer on Google, but it stays in my mind like an ear worm. This is not the place to launch into a Gordon Geckko homily on why everyone furiously seeking wealth is a great idea, other than to ask, what is it to gain the world and lose your soul?
But when you reach the top of the mountain, what is next? The astronauts of the Apollo missions, from what I have read, had “a hard time coming up with an encore” which makes perfect sense. You went to the moon, what’s next, cure cancer? You won the Nobel Prize, so what do you do after that? Sitting on laurels is really that uncomfortable?
Coming down to the ordinary (excuse me, extraordinary) person, you are successful in your chosen profession, you have the perfect partner, you have great friends, you are financially secure, you have a great work/life balance, and you have succeeded at mostly everything that you have attempted to accomplish in life, so what is next?
But what if you didn’t really get to choose a profession, you have what is called a job, your perfect partner summarily rejected you, your friends always seem to need you and are never around when you need them, you consider yourself financially secure if the end of the month comes and you still have a few dollars in your bank account, your work/life balance means you get to live at your workplace or be even poorer than you already are, and every attempt at even the most meager of accomplishments has resulted in crushing failure? How many of the ultra-successful understand the life of the unachieved?
Apparently, the ultra-successful are filled with immedicable grief, and I, for one, think that the rest of us should take a moment from our busy lives and give them the pity and consideration they so rightly deserve. Isn’t there something that you in your miserable life can donate to make these destitute denizens of humanity happier, since we already know that they still seek more money, or if you can, even donate some funds, and if you can’t donate funds, then donate some sweat to the over-achievers?
What if what you are good at doing is what you were meant to do and should be doing? Being a brain surgeon and wanting to be a concert pianist is a great fantasy, but if you are good at something, will the pursuit of happiness compel you to reject your accomplishments and set off on yet another challenge, and if so, is it worth it? The “Disease of More” to me, represents people who have little understanding or appreciation of their favorable fates. I understand the desire to do more, and the motivation to conquer other challenges. To quote George S. Patton: “Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” My favorites are the rock stars who want to be movie stars and the movie stars who want to be rock stars, both of which I will reveal no names. The movie stars are trying to learn arpeggios and the rock stars are trying to learn how to cry on demand. Sometimes one’s aspirations are beyond one’s skill set.
I am all for the ultra-successful to pay hundreds of dollars an hour to therapists to assuage their grief, but I don’t see them giving up everything that makes them comfortable in order to prove themselves again. In many instances, you don’t know what you have until it is gone. Dissatisfaction in life is a great motivator, and I’m not telling people to necessarily rest on their laurels, but I’m certainly telling those who are successful to appreciate what they have earned. Every significant event in your life will alter your perception of life. Every exhilarating event of your life will fade into the mosaic of your life, hopefully with fond memories.
To quote Patton: “For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”
If you truly appreciate what you have, and what success has done for you, you’re not likely to catch “The Disease of More.”